Noel Rappin Writes Here

The Origin of Master Space and Time With JavaScript

Self Publishing, mstjs, self promotionNoel RappinComment

I have a new book, Master Space and Time With JavaSript. You can buy it.

Here’s the secret origin.

This all started over a year ago. Rails Test Prescriptions had been complete for a few months, and I was getting a little antsy to take on a new project.

But what? I wanted it to be a project where I would learn something, and I wanted it to be something where I had a particular perspective to offer.

A couple of recent experiences pushed me toward view-level coding in general, and JavaScript in particular. About then, for the first time in a while, I worked on a project that had a reasonably serious JavaScript front-end on a team small enough that I was contributing some of the JavaScript.

It quickly became clear to me that JavaScript coding had changed dramatically, not just from my first pass at it (warning clients away from it circa 2000), or my second pass (avoiding it with RJS circa 2008). The tools were better, the idioms had changed, and the expectation was that future web applications would need to handle this stuff very well.

I was also working with a new Obtiva apprentice, who wanted to build a very JavaScript-heavy site, but didn’t really know much JavaScript. In searching for books to point him to, it seemed to me like there was an underserved part of the market, not for total beginners, not a description of a particular library, not a pronouncement from On High about The Right Way To Do Things, but a practical guide to writing and testing modern JavaScript to do cool stuff.

Which is what I set about to write. My original proposal for this book may well be one of the best pages of text I’ve ever written.

And yadda, yadda, yadda, here we are.

I knew I wanted the book to build up on a single web application example — I’ve always liked that style, even though it can be a pain in the neck to structure. I also knew that I wanted to have a lot of testing in the book. Not only is writing about testing in JavaScript something that seems pretty needed, it also felt like a perspective where I actually might have useful things to say. Plus, I had used the largely-test-first style of writing before (in the Wrox book), which I’m sure was appreciated by all three of the people who bought it. I thought I could do it again.

The idea of taking an application with no JavaScript and adding JavaScript features seemed like a good hook. I’d used the Time Travel Adventures travel agency before (for my testing legacy code workshop), and the idea of a time-traveling client who was confused about what modern web sites needed seemed like a suitably silly hook. (In the first draft, the client was named Emmett Brown, but I was guided away from using that name directly, hence the client becomes the mysterious Doctor What.)

And I was off…

Here’s what you get in the books.

Book 1 is largely concerned with a particular simple-seeming request: add a show/hide toggle link to each trip on the home page. Although this is simple, it actually winds up touching a fair amount of jQuery — using selectors to find elements, binding events, and manipulating element pieces.

We build up this toggle thing in a few stages. First is a quick pass writing a simple version of the toggle functionality test-first. The goal here is a sense of what a test-driven process looks like in JavaScript, plus the basics of how Jasmine and jQuery can be brought to bear to write the feature. It’s basically the book equivalent of “fast to green”. We solve the problem with the understanding that we’ll clean up the details later.

Then we go back with two more chapters that go more in-depth on first Jasmine, then jQuery. In these chapters, we don’t add new features as much as describe the library features that supported what we did and explore related functionality.

The final chapter of Part 1 covers the JavaScript object model and why it is confusing if you come to JavaScript from a more traditional Object-Oriented language. By the end of it, we’ve used the module pattern to build the most over-designed show/hide toggle ever. I’ve had some experience doing workshops based on the material in this chapter, and it seems like even people who have been doing JavaScript for a while get something new out of it.

And that’s Book 1. It’s available for the low, low price of zero dollars and zero cents. Worth every penny.

Book 2 is mostly about apply and extend. The first chapter is about building up an widget that combines an autocomplete text input with a list of currently chosen items. Test-first, of course. The we throw some Ajax in the mix, extending our already gold-plated toggler with the ability to get data from a server. This also gives us an excuse to talk about Jasmine spies. Finally, we build up a rating widget, with the clickable stars and a histogram and stuff, which lets us talk about JSON and Mustache. There’s also a small, slightly out of date bit on the Chrome developer tools. I’ll catch up on that at some point.

Book 2 is a mere $7.

Or you can get Books 1 & 2, Plus books 3 & 4 when they come out for $15. That $15 is a temporary price, and will go up when Book 3 gets closer to completion.

Book 3 is going to be about Backbone. I know the structure of most of it — first, we’ll recreate the front page using a Backbone structure. Next, we’ll build a buy page that allows you to make several calculations about differing trip purchase options on the client. Not sure about the last part, it will definitely include communicating back to the server, probably something else.

Book 3 is going to start appearing on the site in a couple of weeks, and will probably be draft complete by the end of September.

Book 4 will cover Ember.js. I’m not sure yet what we’ll build, though I want it to be a new part of the site, and not a recreation of the same things we do in Backbone. I’m hoping that Book 4 will be out by the end of 2012.

Oh — the title. I had a list of two word titles that were like POWERWORD JavaScript, but all of them were either taken, sounded ridiculously stentorian to me, or both. The original proposal titles were “Getting Things Done in JavaScript”, which nobody liked, or “JavaScript for People who Hate JavaScript”, which nobody liked (see the pattern).

I had Master Space and Time with JavaScript on my list as kind of a joke — a reference to the Time Travel conceit in the book. Plus I liked that it sounded like a pulp adventure novel, and would lend itself to a cover easily. I know it’s not the, like, SEO favorite title, but I’m hoping that people won’t forget it once they hear it.

The cover, by the way, is my own design, and I like it considerably more than many of the other things I’ve designed. (I’m also pretty happy with the PDF layout…) I think the cover particularly works well at thumbnail size, so you can see the difference between the individual books easily.

That’s the story. Hope you like it. Buy it!, or tell all your friends (Twitter hashtag #mstwjs).

Thanks.